Day 1 of Global Gathering: A Feast of Love and Compassion

The specter of magic, stories of love and forgiveness from numerous disciplines and the power of butterfly wings kicked off the unique Global Gathering: A Pilgrimmage of Love and Forgiveness, hosted by the Fetzer Institute in Assisi, Italy.

The first full day of the four-day event was described as a “feast” of great stories and examples of love and forgiveness playing a powerful role in various areas of professional, personal and spiritual lives. After a morning of plenary sessions that focused on the arts, education, engineering and design, the afternoon offered in-depth breakout sessions on six themes, from public interest design to how love and forgiveness can heal divides in a variety of contexts.

The sessions, and the unique gathering of more than 500 practitioners of various forms of love and forgiveness from around the world, offered great opportunities for networking, education and personal reflection

“Every moment offers an opportunity to be grateful. Stop...look...appreciate,” urged Benedictine Monk Br. David Stendl-Rast, opening speaker of the morning session.

Magic experience designer Ferdinando Buscema merged sleight-of-hand and serious messaging to represent the Fetzer Arts Advisory Council. Buscema defined art as the ability to alter context enough to affect the perspective of one’s audience.

The magical session was capped by the release of a colorful cloud of paper butterflies, since, Buscema told the attendees, “A butterfly flapping its wings in Kalamazoo, MI can create a storm in Assisi.”

Notre Dame Institute of Church Life Director John Cavadini related efforts to create a “pedagogy of admiration” among various faiths, on the logic that if one admires a practitioner of a religion, it can’t be viewed entirely negatively.

The day included presentations on numerous projects that merge innovation and compassion. Jon Kuniholm’s Open Prosthetics Project is turning to crowdsourcing and collaboration via the internet to update the now 100-year-old design for prosthetic hands now commonly in use. Kuniholm shared his experience of losing an arm in military service in Iraq, only to learn how limited his options were for a replacement limb.

Film screenings included a 35-minute documentary on the plight and hopes for street children of Mexico and Brazil by Thereza Jessouroun and a video on the keys to Universal Design and web accessibility created by the engineering professions group.

Camille George of Haiti told of taking flour made from breadfruit, a food product brought to the island to feed slaves that typically rots on the vine, and opening a bakery dedicated to breadfruit products. Next step: A franchise operation.

After participants learned the stories behind a pair of art installations created specifically for the event, the evening was capped by a unique dinner and Medieval performance of flag throwing, fire eating and song at the Cathedral of St Peter.